Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease that affects dogs. It is also known as Tracheobronchitis or Bordetella. While most cases of Kennel Cough are not serious and resolve on their own, some dogs can develop serious complications. Most dogs are better in about 2 weeks.
Kennel cough can be caused by a number of different airborne bacteria (such as Bordetella bronchiseptica) and viruses (such as canine parainfluenza) or a mycoplasma (an organism somewhere between a virus and a bacteria). Usually, more than one of these are present, which is why the disease spreads quickly and easily. Dogs who travel frequently and who have contact with other dogs on a regular basis are more likely to contract the disease. This doesn’t mean that you should keep your dog completely isolated though.
By getting your dog vaccinated at an early age (some as early as 4 weeks) you can help prevent the spread of Kennel Cough. However, because the disease has a variety of causes, you will want to limit your dog’s exposure to dogs who show the symptoms of Kennel Cough. If your dog does have visitors, try not to allow them to share toys or food and water dishes. This will help to not spread the disease.
Symptoms of Kennel Cough include a dry hacking cough (almost like your dog has something stuck in his throat and he’s trying to clear it). Usually a cough spell is followed by retching and throwing up of a white, foamy liquid. Some dogs can also develop eye infections or rhinitis (an inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane). Most dogs stay active and alert, so if your dog has any of the other symptoms, isolate him from any other dogs and call your veterinarian.
Kennel cough is diagnosed through a bacterial culture or a blood test. Some veterinarian’s might also take a chest x-ray to rule out the possibility that your dog has developed pneumonia in addition to the kennel cough. If your veterinarian determines that your dog has kennel cough, you will have to keep him isolated from your other dogs. He might also prescribe and antibiotic to prevent any secondary infection and a cough suppressant.
The most important thing to keep your dog from getting the disease is to vaccinate him. There are two types of vaccines that can be used to prevent kennel cough, an intranasal and a traditional vaccine. The intranasal vaccine, Univac 2, can be given to puppies as young as 3 weeks of age. It is administered in liquid form, which is put up to your dog’s nose and they inhale it. Intranasal vaccines work well if you need quick protection (you will want to wait at least 4 days before exposing your dog to other dogs) as they are absorbed more quickly than the traditional vaccine.
The traditional vaccine is usually combined with vaccines for other disease, so if your puppy has received a 5-way or greater vaccination, such as Univac 7, he is already covered for many of the things that can cause kennel cough.